PREVIEW: Scotland v France
WORLD CUP WARM-UP: Scotland and France are in Edinburgh as Scotland look to avenge their Championship defeat in round three earlier this year to Les Bleus.
Scotland were taught a tough lesson last weekend in Nice by France and as a result, Gregor Townsend has rung the changes.
Stuart Hogg is the only man retained in their starting XV as Townsend looks to continue to build his depth with the World Cup in mind.
Only four players who started in Paris in February are named here and one of those is Peter Horne who switches from flyhalf to inside centre.
The other three are Tommy Seymour, Sean Maitland and Greig Laidlaw but the pack is an entirely new concoction from Townsend.
France meanwhile have opted for continuity, perhaps a little surprising considering this is the second of only three warm-up games pre-Japan.
But confidence is growing and there are only four changes this weekend, meaning eight men in Jacques Brunel’s starting XV also downed Scotland in Paris earlier this year with a further four on the bench.
One of those men is Gregory Alldritt and Scotland must beware the No.8.
He scored a double from the bench in the Championship clash late on and added his third international try against them last week in Nice.
Alldritt – who has a Scottish father – starts at the base of the scrum again this weekend alongside Arthur Iturria in the back row who also got through a mountain of work in Paris that weekend.
*Article continues below…
The 10-27 defeat in Paris owed much to Scottish wastefulness, they carried for nearly twice as many metres as France in that game and made the most carries of any country in a single Championship game with 172.
But they lost the set-piece battle heavily and missed too many tackles so Townsend has responded accordingly.
Blade Thomson makes a long-awaited Test debut at No.8 alongside Hamish Watson and Ryan Wilson who are both back from injury.
France struggled to get quick ball in the 2019 Championship, 4.11 seconds per breakdown was the slowest of all six nations, and Watson and Wilson will hope to cause more carnage this weekend.
After all, Scotland scored six tries originating from turnovers, more than any other nation in the 2019 Championship.
But in attack, France are showing signs of returning to their former glories.
The 12 tries scored in the 2019 Championship were the most in a single campaign since they last won it all back in 2010.
Antoine Dupont was a key tormentor in both Paris and Nice and Scotland will need to stop the No.9 who made more offloads than any other player in the Guinness Six Nations this year.
Gael Fickou carved up Scotland in Paris in February to the tune of 80m from 13 carries and a game-high two tackle-breaks.
His centre pairing with Wesley Fofana looks to be gathering strength in time for Japan and Horne and Chris Harris could have their work cut out to stop them.
France’s scrum gave Scotland some trouble that weekend at the Stade de France, but at home, Scotland remain a threat to all teams in world rugby and it should make for fascinating viewing on Saturday.
Commenting on Saturday’s clash, Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend said: “France are a very dangerous side if you give them space and quick ball to play, which is what we allowed to happen on too many occasions last week. Our focus all week has been to remedy this and also create much more from our attacking game.
“It was a stark reminder of how tough things can be at international level if our standards slip.
“We expect our players to show a much truer picture of themselves this Saturday,”
*Article continues below…
Players to watch:
For Scotland: The most notable return is definitely captain Greig Laidlaw. The scrumhalf’s absence was certainly felt last week during the defeat to Frace. However this week he will be out to prove himself and dictate much of the play at Edinburgh. Stuart Hogg and wing Tommy Seymour, both bring incredible pace and inject versatility to Scotland’s backline. In the front row, South African-born Willem Nel always prove to ve a vital cog when it comes to the scrums.
For France: The Centre Gaël Fickou is certainly one of France’s dangerman in the backline. Antoine Dupont has been in phenomenal form and will certainly be a handful for Scotland.
Head to head: The scrumhalf battle is one to behold, the veteran of Scotland Greig Laidlaw against the French rising star Antoine Dupont.
2019: France won 32-3, Nice
2019: France won 27-10, Paris
2018: Scotland won 32-26, Edinburgh
2017: France won 22-16, Paris
2016: Scotland won 29-18, Edinburgh
Prediction: France will certainly be a tough opponent, however with most of Scotland first-choice players returning and the extra advantage of playing at Edinburgh, Scotland will win this by 5 points or more
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Pete Horne, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw (captain), 8 Blade Thomson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Ryan Wilson, 5 Sam Skinner, 4 Scott Cummings, 3 Willem Nel, 2 George Turner, 1 Gordon Reid.
Replacements: 16 Grant Stewart, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Grant Gilchrist, 20 John Barclay, 21 George Horne, 22 Rory Hutchinson, 23 Blair Kinghorn.
France: 15 Thomas Ramos, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Gaël Fickou, 12 Sofiane Guitoune, 11 Alivereti Raka, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Antoine Dupont, 8 Grégory Alldritt, 7 Charles Ollivon, 6 Arthur Iturria, 5 Sébastien Vahaamahina, 4 Félix Lambey, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Guilhem Guirado (captain), 1 Jefferson Poirot.
Replacements: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Cyril Baille, 18 Emerick Setiano, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Yacouba Camara, 21 Baptiste Serin, 22 Romain Ntamack, 23 Maxime Médard.
Date: Saturday, August 24
Venue: Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Kick-off: 13.10 (14.10 France time; 12.10 GMT)
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)
Compiled by @Leezil07
Additional Source: @SixNationsRugby